Found in every ocean of the world, it is the top predator of the sea. With its striking black and white coloring, this is none other than Orcinus orca – the Killer Whale.
While it is known as a “whale”, it is actually the largest of the dolphins (though whales, dolphins and porpoises are all cetaceans) weighing between 5,000 and 20,000 lbs (2,270-9,070 kg) and reaching lengths up to 30 ft (9 meters).
The name “killer whale” is likely derived from the name “whale killer” as sailors would often witness them hunting whales.
Feeding on seabirds, seals, turtles, fish and penguins to sharks and even whales, they are apex predators, and no other animal hunts killer whales!
Their iconic and instantly recognizable black and white coloration provides excellent camouflage for sneaking up on prey. From above, their dark backsides look like shadows of the deep sea. From below, their light undersides look like sunlight or ice floes.
Sometimes called wolves of the sea, Killer Whales are highly intelligent and hunt in pods. Using a wide variety of different sounds to communicate, each pod has distinctive noises that its members can recognize.
Currently, scientists recognize 10 ecotypes (forms) of killer whales, all varying in size, dorsal fin shape, color pattern, habitat, vocalizations, prey and hunting strategies.
In the eastern North Pacific three ecotypes have been identified, resident, transient and offshore. Resident killer whales hunt mainly fish, transient whales prey upon marine mammals and offshore whales seem to prefer sharks.